Pirates Stun Spireites At The Memorial
A plucky Chesterfield side twice fought back from behind but were denied at least a richly deserved share of the spoils against Bristol Rovers when Tom Eaves' deflected effort nine minutes from time ensured the Spireites' unwanted record of never having won a league game at the Memorial Stadium continued after The Gas edged it 3-2.
Rovers got their noses in front as early as the fourth minute, when Tom Eaves' devastating run and cross was clumsily turned into his own net by Sam Togwell but ex-Gunner Mark Randall squared things up in bizarre fashion as his harmless free-kick was bundled in by Fulham loanee Neil Etheridge in the 20th minute. The visitors were left frustrated after the Filipino goalkeeper made a string of fine stops to atone for his error and the crossbar came to his rescue to deny Togwell's 30-yard drive, before Eaves' long range effort clattered the foot of the post.
Joe Anyinsah gave the Pirates the lead against the run of play on the hour-mark, when he met Eaves' low cross at the near post before Brighton and Hove Albion youngster Brennan Dickinson marked his debut with a wonderful strike, hammering home into the top corner barely minutes after his introduction. But Eaves finally got the goal his performance had merited, when his drive struck Terrell Forbes and completely wrong-footed Richard O'Donnell before creeping into the far corner with just nine minutes to play.
Manager Paul Cook plumped for an unchanged side once again from the team that comfortably dispatched of League One strugglers Hartlepool and also held high-flying Bradford to a goalless draw, with on-loan Brighton winger Dickenson only making the bench instead of Jacob Hazel. 16-year-old goalkeeper Cameron Mason continued his stint on the bench, as did Huddersfield pair Liam Ridehalgh and Chris Atkinson who came on in the second-half at Valley Parade.
There were milestones for both Danny Whitaker and Scott Boden, with the former making his 100th appearance for the Spireites, while the latter made a century of league appearances and the evergreen Jack Lester - once again on the bench - remained stranded on 199 in all competitions for Chesterfield.
The Pirates had been in disastrous form of late, having lost their last four games but manager Mark McGhee did boast a total of three former Scotland internationals in his starting line-up in the form of Garry Kenneth, David Clarkson and Derek Riordan, while goalkeeper Etheridge had been capped 38 times for the Phillipines.
After a minute's silence was impeccably observed to commemorate the nation's fallen war heroes in World Wars I and II and the conflicts since, the hosts got us underway in glorious early-winter sunshine which bathed the Memorial Stadium. There were no such dramas with the visitors' kit on this occasion as Town were once again in their change strip of gold shirts, black shorts and black stockings. But in spite of starting on the front foot - Tendayi Darikwa forcing a corner early on - Cook's side cruelly fell behind in just the fourth minute after Togwell put through his own net.
The Gas broke in devastating fashion from the aforementioned corner, with the giant striker Eaves demonstrating pace not usually associated with someone of his build and his powerful low cross cannoned off the back-tracking former Scunthorpe man and agonisingly flew into the top corner. It wasn't an ideal start for the visitors, but they responded well with left-back Nathan Smith slicing a volley wide from 25-yards.
The game had begun in a very open manner at Filton Avenue and Drew Talbot was the next to venture forward, but he could only scuff his left-footed shot into the side net before former Motherwell star David Clarkson's range effort flew harmlessly into the home terrace behind O'Donnell's goal. The visitors were playing some neat stuff on a tricky surface and Darikwa's dangerous cross narrowly eluded Boden as an end-to-end opening 15 minutes passed.
Chesterfield had been in good form away from home, registering seven points from their previous three encounters without having conceded a goal and once again it was former Arsenal youngster Randall that was the focal point of the visitors' attacking threat. And remarkably, with 20 minutes on the clock the 23-year-old hauled the Spireites level in the most bizarre of circumstances.
His free-kick initially looked too deep to cause the home side any trouble, but with the ball swirling awkwardly beneath the crossbar former Chelsea trainee Etheridge could only fumble it into his own net leaving assistant referee Mr. Dan Cook frantically waving his flag with the gold shirts celebrating. Randall would be credited with the goal and with him looking in imperious form drifting infield from the left, he slipped Boden clean through with a delightful through ball shortly after but the former Sheffield United striker was thwarted by Etheridge.
Both goals had come in bizarre fashion and there were certainly more to come in this entertaining contest, with the out-of-form Gas beginning to look shy on confidence. Darikwa was once again making a nuisance of himself and his pull-back found Whitaker, but the former Oldham man's effort was snuffed out by crowd of blue and white shirts, before German winger Fabian Broghammer and Randall exchanged bookings on the half-hour mark and Forbes acrobatically cleared the ensuing free-kick.
McGhee's side had showed little in terms of endeavour in the attacking third and Wayne Brown was the culprit for failing to test O'Donnell when he skewed his shot wide seven minutes before the break. Chesterfield responded and the home side had goalkeeper Etheridge to thank when he denied Darikwa's goalbound effort with a wonderful sprawling save after captain Sam Hird had teed him up.
The Nottingham-born wide man released Boden shortly after, but he was denied by Kenneth's last ditch tackle and the Filipino goalkeeper once again kept Cook's side at bay when he firstly denied Whitaker, then got up to prevent Boden from turning in the rebound. It was a huge let off for the Pirates and there was little time to draw breath, as former FC Bayern Alzenau man Broghammer flashed a vicious cross narrowly wide of the upright.
Randall once again had a decent opportunity to test Etheridge, but he could only scuff into his grateful arms to bring a delicately-poised opening period to a close. The blinding sun finally nestled behind the grey clouds as the teams came out for the second-half and with the spoils still up for grabs, Cook's team talk certainly didn't fall on deaf ears as the Spireites flew out of the traps under the floodlights.
It was the on loan Fulham stopper who had thrice denied the visitors and when he was finally beaten, the crossbar came to his rescue as Togwell's 30-yard piledriver thumped the face of the woodwork via the aid of a slight deflection. Forbes was the next to be frustrated, after Randall and Boden had combined in the box the former Leyton Orient defender saw his effort scrambled away before Eaves himself struck the foot of the post from long range.
The second period had certainly resumed normal service and once again Randall looked the most likely to give Chesterfield the lead, when his delicate lob caressed the fingertips of Etheridge and dropped the wrong side of the bar. The home side were hanging on by the skin of their teeth, but their goal was still living a charmed life as the hour approached.
The Gas were now being forced to play on the break, in spite of being the home side, but Broghammer remained Rovers' outlet and he drilled one across goal that just eluded Anyinsah. But so typically, it was the side that had barely threatened that would inflict the next blow when the former Charlton Athletic striker met Eaves' low cross with a thumping finish at the near post.
It prompted the Liverpudlian into a change just after the hour, throwing on Brighton loanee Dickenson for the lively Randall and Lester replaced Boden to make his 200th appearance for the Spireites and remarkably, it didn't take long for the young Seagull to make an immediate impression as he hammered home an unstoppable rasping drive to gazump the helpless Etheridge and nestle right where the spiders nest in the top corner.
It had proved to be a masterstroke from the former Accrington boss and with 20 minutes to play, both sides were still going hell for leather in what had been a pulsating contest before Atkinson replaced the industrious Craig Clay after the on loan Huddersfield midfielder had struck the winner at the Recreation Ground and St James Park.
Mistakes began to litter the remainder of the contest with legs growing weary, but Eaves settled the outcome in the 81st minute when his deflected shot left the former Sheffield Wednesday man stranded.
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1) - O'Donnell; Talbot, Forbes, Hird (c), Smith; Clay (Atkinson 76), Togwell; Whitaker, Randall (Dickenson 63), Darikwa; Boden (Lester 63).
Subs not used - Mason, Ridehalgh, Westcarr, Evans.
Goals - Randall (20) Dickinson (65)
Bookings - Randall (31)
Bristol Rovers (4-4-2) - Etheridge; Lund, Parkes, Kenneth, Paterson; Riordan (Smith 82), W Brown, Clarkson, Broghammer (Richards 63); Anyinsah, Eaves.
Subs not used - Walker, Woodards, Richards, L Brown, Clarke, Clucas.
Goals - Togwell (O.G 4), Anyinsah (59), Eaves (81)
Bookings - Broghammer (30), Lund (79), Anyinsah (88)
Referee - Mr. Richard Clark
Attendance - 5, 491 (359 away)